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Shirley Collins - This Time Roses

I must have seen you in Guildford Civic Hall with Davy Graham about that time – and were you on the Beaulieu Festival?

Yes… no, I’m thinking of Woburn. All I can remember about that is that I wore a very short mini-skirt, I know, and fell in love with Jimi Hendrix. Well, who wouldn’t?

We missed out how you got together with John Marshall.

Shirley Collins 1971
Photo: Keith Morris
Shirley Collins 1971
Oh, I met him when he did a record sleeve for one of those very early albums that Peter Kennedy put out that I was on. That was the greatest moment of my life up to then. I’d been put on a record and my track was between the Coppers and Harry Cox. I just about knew enough that to be put between Bob Copper on one side and Harry Cox on the other was the best you could get! But anyway, John was a graphic artist; he was working for Vogue at the time and he brought the proofs of this artwork; he was just from a different world. I’d come back from America and I was wary of bearded, beer-gutted folkies. I wanted something a cut above it and he was intelligent and well-read. I think it was a reaction, a change, so we got married.

Now he produced Anthems In Eden didn’t he, and of course wrote Dancing At Whitsun?

Well, I think that was probably the single best thing he ever did in his life, writing that song. I still think it’s marvellous. I still find it very moving.

Anthems was a big jump in terms of record production and arrangement wasn’t it? Was that his idea?

Well, I’d introduced John to early music. I love Monteverdi, and Johan Schein, and Michael Praetorius. And Purcell – I know Purcell’s not early music, but Uncle Fred had made us understand that Purcell was probably the greatest composer in the world, and certainly the most underestimated English composer! I was really keen to wed the two somehow and it just happened that at the same time, a man called Michael Morrow had a group called Musica Reservata and they were playing early music on original instruments which was quite a new venture.

David Munrow was a member of Musica Reservata; he later broke away to form his own consort. We used to go along to listen to the rehearsals of Musica Reservata and got to know the musicians. It was then suggested, and we all agreed, that it would be a good idea to wed English traditional tunes to these wonderful early instruments that were so rough and not perfectly tuned. We just took it from there. It was really a joint project between John and me and Dolly and David Munrow, all working together.

Love, Death And The Lady was also done that way?

Yes, that was a couple of years after Anthems. I think Love, Death And The Lady has some marvellous stuff on it; when I listened to it recently I was surprised at how well a lot of that stands up.

On Anthems there seems to be a lot going on on every track – lots of instruments…

It was a heady time!

From Folk Roots 65, November 1988


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